My friend earned her PhD in Tehran Iran, I assume from the primary university. She received many awards and published several articles in Condensed-Matter/Cosmology. However when she applied to several post-doc positions in the United States, she was denied, not because of her experience, but because her PhD was earned in Iran. I do not understand why this would cause a problem in the United States. She was forced into a situation to either chose to be admitted as a graduate student and earn her PhD again, or simply stay in Iran. She is currently admitted as a graduate student in the US.

  1. Why is getting your PhD in Iran invalid for obtaining a post-doc position in the US?

  2. Is there away around this problem? Can she bounce off from her graduate position?

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    Just to be clear, was your friend explicitly told by someone from a US university, "Your degree is not valid, we won't even consider your application"? Or was your friend simply unsuccessful in obtaining a position? A quick google search doesn't reveal any actual diplomatic problem making it formally impossible to apply.
    – user10636
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:00
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    I know of no blanket policy stating that PhDs from Iran are "invalid", so I think your friend has misunderstood the issue. There are some postdocs which are funded by the US government to increase US science capabilities, and therefore are limited to US citizens and/or people who got their PhDs from US universities. There are other possible reasons why she didn't get hired, and I am not sure how we will read minds to guess what they were. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:04
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    @shane: That's 53 pages, can you give us a hint as to where we should look to find something specifically relevant to this question? Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:05
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    There was an article about University of Massachusetts some time ago that cited a 2012 sanction law that basically said "restricts Iranian citizens seeking to prepare for a career in that country’s energy or nuclear science sectors," but I can't be sure that's the case.
    – CKM
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 15:34
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    I personally know people who had an Iranian PhD and got a post-doc position in the USA (at University of Maryland).
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 10:45

4 Answers 4


I think the answer is simple: your premise is false. There are no rules/regulations forbidding an Iranian earned PhD from being a postdoc in the US.

It might be hard to get a postdoc in the US for anyone whose academic background, and PhD earning institution, is not perceived as highly ranked.

Note: I have answered this a year and a half ago. Things may have changed since then through the presidential ban against Iranians entering the US. I have no specific knowledge of the current situation with respect to Iranian students.

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    Does there exist publicly available data that illustrates that recently colleges have accepted Iranians for Post-Doc positions in the US? Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 19:18
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    @linuxfreebird I personally know one Iranian who was accepted as a post-doc at University of Maryland, his PhD was from Iran. This was in 2010 or 2011 or so.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 10:47
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    @linuxfreebird You can just look at the universities' policies recognizing foreign credits and degrees. It usually comes down to the specific accrediting body and/or university, but I've never heard of it being on the national level.
    – y0gapants
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 23:29
  • @linuxfreebird i know at least one in person...
    – Greg
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 1:19

As with the other people answering this question, I don't think your friend's problem is that her PhD is "invalid". I've worked with a number of Iranian researchers and graduate students, and it's never been brought up that Iranian PhDs are looked at as any way "lesser" or invalid compared to any other degree.

Which leaves one of two possibilities:

  • Her PhD is invalid, not because she is Iranian, but because of some element of the PhD itself, her institution, etc. Without knowing more, of course, we can't really come up with a reason why this is. There are some American PhDs which are invalid, but that doesn't imply that they all are.
  • Regardless of how well respected her degree is, an Iranian student may still fall in the "More trouble than they are worth" pile, either due to immigration issues, perceived political instability ("Every time you go home for break, there's a risk you won't be able to get back), or funding issues. This isn't universally true for all universities, but may be true for a particular admissions/hiring committee.
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    +1: I think this answer is a bit more helpful than Dilworth's
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 20:00
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    Perhaps it's more helpful, but I don't think it is a correct answer. No reasonable university will consider an Iranian student/postdoc "less valid" because of "immigration troubles". The facts are that there are many Iranian scholars within the US.
    – Dilworth
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 22:41
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    @Dilworth Note that this is a postdoc position, so there's a great deal more weight on a random PIs opinion. That it might happen rarely would still mean there are many Iranian scholars - something I note in my answer.
    – Fomite
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 22:42
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    @Dilworth Something doesn't have to be "of no consequence to us all" to rate an answer. Indeed, I'd suggest your own answer, "Your premise is just wrong", is also a "then this is of no consequence to us all" answer.
    – Fomite
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 22:47
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    I have first hand experience in recruitment, and have worked in different universities. Never had I witnessed political concerns against Iranians. I have no statistical data about Iranians being recruited, but I have common sense, experience and knowledge of enough places that, I can deduce there is no such discrimination. Of course, there may be some isolated institutions that do not hire Iranians. I claim that because these are only anecdotal and isolated places, effectively it is very similar to a PI personally disliking Germans, for instance: in both cases a negligible minority will suffer
    – Dilworth
    Commented May 29, 2016 at 17:20

I am going to differ from Dilworth's answer a little bit. While I would not say that a degree from Iran is invalid for study in the US, being an Iranian citizen in the current political climate of 2016 poses some significant hurdles for study in many other countries around the world. Applicants from Iran face heightened scrutiny and substantial delays when applying for visas; in some disciplines, such as nuclear engineering, it may be even impossible. Moreover, the process will very iikely impose additional paperwork and other bureaucratic burdens on the hiring faculty member and institutions. Consequently, many faculty choose to deal with these obstacles by simply excluding all Iranian candidates from consideration.

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    many faculty choose to... Do you would have evidence to back up this claim, or are you just assuming, from having observed it once, that this is common?
    – user1482
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 6:17
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    In addition, certain federal research centres like the National Institute for Standard and Technology (NIST) cannot host Iranian researchers. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 9:41
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    many faculty choose to... not that we get too many applicants from Iran, but we get a few, and we have never even discussed such a "policy."
    – Kimball
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 13:38
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    Actually, there are thousands of Iranians studying for a PhD degree in the US (who had their first degree from Iran; usually in good universities like Sharif, etc.). So I don't see the political problems argument you've alluded to as having a strong backing. The point of my answer is simple: it is not a political/regulatory reason that makes Iranian PhD's unsuccessful in the US academic market. It is the perception of these degrees as not highly ranked, or not respected enough, or not considered as mainstream enough in the US (irrespective of the veracity of this perception).
    – Dilworth
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:41
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    Strangely, while I agree overall with the responses to the answer, I actually agree with most of the answer itself -- in fact the only part I disagree with is the final sentence.
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented May 28, 2016 at 19:57

In many fields (perhaps most), finding a successful postdoc position, like finding a faculty position, is a networking thing. People will take postdocs from groups that they know and like, and will not risk taking people that their immediate community can't vouch for. It's not a policy, just small, fairly closed communities that draw from within, not from outside

If I were an Iranian predoc hoping for a US postdoc experience, I would make serious efforts to attend international conferences that US colleagues participate in, trying to arrange collaborations and similar experiences.

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